Digitizing your photos, videos for keepsakes

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If you don't have the time to do it yourself, you can hire professional companies to take old videotapes, 16 and 18 mm films, slides, and photos and put them in a digital format such as a DVD or on a hard drive so you can preserve your memories for many years.

Professionals have the knowledge and equipment to digitize a large amount of items in a short period of time. Several different types of companies exist. If there is a local company you can just drop off your items, otherwise you can pack up and ship the materials.

"We have a lot of people that come in and they find the films in their grandparent's house, they have the films done and when they get them back nobody knows who the people are in the film," said Jim Britt, owner of a media transfer company. "So get it done now while you still have people around that can identify the people in the films, so you can pass that family history along."

Angie's List suggests asking some questions before handing over your photos or videos.

If you need the finished project for a special occasion or event, ask about the turnaround time – do they charge additional for a rush order?

"You really want to understand the cost," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "How do they charge? Do they charge a flat rate? Is it by the photo? Also, are there extra charges for color correction? You want to be sure you get the full glimpse of how much you are going to pay so you can compare quotes."

If you find a local company to do the job, you can likely just drop off your items, otherwise you'll have to pack up and ship the materials.  And, ask what steps the company takes to ensure your item's safekeeping?

 "What's their process to make sure they are not damaged because if the original is damaged you are out of luck and that brings up another good point – make sure you are doing a small test with someone before you give them all of your photos. Take a few. See how it works before you do the rest of them," advised Hicks.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a professional to digitize your photos & videos

  • Check reputation: Do your research to ensure you are hiring a reputable company. Ask family and friends. Check Angie's List. Ask the company for references.
  • How do you charge? Companies vary with how they charge so it pays to compare prices. Ask about any additional fees, for example, how much extra do they charge for color correction?
  • What steps to you take to ensure safekeeping? Ask about the process the company has in place to ensure your items are safe and secure. How do they prevent your items from getting damaged, lost, or mixed up with someone else?
  • What is your turnaround time? If you need the items returned in time for an occasion/event, be sure to understand how long it will take. Do they charge additional for a rush order?
  • Organization and Preparation: How do your items need to be dropped off or mailed? Some companies require similar sized photos bundled together and labeled with index cards. What prep work?

If you don't have time, or the budget, right now to digitize your photos and videos, store your materials in a safe, dry place, like and interior closet. Photos and videos should be kept away from attics and basements where the climate is not easily controlled.

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